Halfway There: Grace Hellyer’s First Iron Squad

Posted October 28, 2017

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On Sept. 11, we kicked off the 2017 fall season of FIT Squad. For the past several weeks, Squad members have crushed workout after workout and made gain after gain, and are going to keep killing it until the conclusion of the season on Dec. 16. Grace Helleyer is currently at the halfway point in her first-ever FIT Squad experience as a part of Iron Squad with Rival Trainer Sean Manseau. We reached out to Grace to see how the past few weeks have impacted areas of her life.

Q: How long have you been a member at Rival? What made you want to give Iron Squad a try?

A: I’ve been a member at Rival since this January. I’ve been taking the classes offered at Rival 4-5 days a week pretty consistently since I joined. I absolutely love the classes and I still take them. However, I joined Iron Squad because I felt like I hit a plateau in my fitness goals and I wanted to try something different. Iron Squad was appealing to me because the groups are smaller, there’s more focus on perfecting form and movement, the emphasis on tracking progress and increasing strength in real numerical ways, and it’s also a three-month commitment that holds me accountable.

Q: What has your experience been like so far?

A: So far my experience has been really exciting, This kind of fitness is completely novel to me. I know that I’ve gotten stronger and increased my performance. I can see changes in my body. But Iron Squad has introduced me to an entirely different kind of fitness and progress tracking. Heavy weight lifting and barbells have always been intimidating to me because I didn’t have any guidance. So this has really opened up my world in a way that has reignited my engagement and my excitement about going to the gym and getting stronger. It’s really exciting to see myself achieve my weekly goals in such a measurable way instead of just doing the same things over and over.

Q: What benefits have you noticed? Any increase in strength or other physiological changes so far?

A: I don’t know if this is a benefit exactly, but I am hungry ALL THE TIME. I can tell that my body is expending a lot of energy building muscle to meet new challenges. It’s exciting to feel my body working so hard and engaging in something new and completely different, and thus needing a lot more fuel. I’m absolutely feeling myself getting stronger. I am able to bench press a lot more than I thought I would be able to. What was more surprising to me is that I am also feeling myself getting more flexible. My shoulders have usually been tight and inflexible, and now I can already see improvement. I also feel a lot more confident, not just confident in the gym, but confident in the world. I feel so much more present in my body and awake and focused and capable.

Q: In what ways has the Squad been different or similar to what you expected going into it?

A: I went into Iron Squad hoping to get stronger and learn how to lift, and it’s met my expectations there. But I also went in with really no clue how each day was going to look and I was very unsure of what the culture was going to be compared to the classes I was used to. I’m still learning a lot about weight-lifting “culture.” On the outside, it seems very masculine and it’s definitely a different world than I’m used to. I was afraid there would be less camaraderie and socializing as there are in my classes, but I found that was not the case. I didn’t go into Iron Squad with a lot of expectations except to change my routine. Which it definitely did.

Q: How would you describe the typical Iron Squad session?

A: Each day is centered around two barbell exercises. Monday is dedicated to the back squat and the shoulder press. Wednesday is dedicated to the deadlift and the bench press. We start the day doing form drills for about 7-10 minutes. During this time we practice the motions for the exercises without any weights. Sean will make corrections during that time before we do any heavy lifting. After that we do our barbell exercises for 20 minutes, during which time we perform five sets of ten reps for each of the exercises and alternate between the two exercises in supersets. The first two supersets are light weights for a warm up and the last three sets are the heavier weights for our “working sets.” After that we do two conditioning style workouts that are EMOMs (every minute on the minute).

Q: Do you work-out outside of Iron Squad? If so, has what you’ve learned so far influenced those workouts? Has it affected any other areas of your daily life?

A: I have continued to take Rival Fitness classes as a supplement to Iron Squad. I do Iron Squad on Mondays and Wednesdays and I take Rival classes on Tuesday and Thursdays and, on occasion, one day during the weekend. Despite all the praise I have for Iron Squad I still love my Rival classes and the instructors. Darsenio (Hunter) and Jared (Erickson) are my heroes – they’re incredibly inspiring to me. Not just because they are so strong and fit, but because they are so kind, warm, and positive, and they make you want to be the strongest and most inspired version of yourself. I’m their biggest fan girl. But I’m able to do movements much more confidently and efficiently now alongside Iron Squad. I’m less afraid to pick up heavier weights in classes.

I’ve also noticed that I strain my body less because my form is better. Pre-Iron Squad, I had occasions where my lower back would get sore after a hard workout. I never experience that now. In terms of my daily life, like I said before, I feel more confident and more present in my body. I also just feel really proud of myself all the time. That might sound silly, but accomplishing weekly goals just feels really good. it makes me feel proud of myself. Confidence, pride, feeling alive and present in my body, those feelings are really, truly unbeatable.

The Winter season of FIT Squad will begin in January and enrollment will open as the Fall season closes in December. Learn more about the FIT Squad experience.

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